BY ADOGHOR BRIGHT OCHUKO
The Corporate Accountability and Public Africa (CAPPA) has condemned the recent explosion of an oil pipeline facility owned by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) which claimed 12 lives in Rumuekpe community, Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State.
In the early hours of Friday, March 3, 2023, an oil pipeline explosion traced to what is alleged to be illegal oil bunkering occurred yet again. Some initial reports issued by the Police command confirmed that the victims were scooping crude products from a leaking Shell facility when the site caught fire. Noticeable across the community are exposed webs of pipelines that are said to be sites for refined crude oil products against the effort of stakeholders in tackling the menace.
CAPPA said that it is on record that Shell’s operations in Rumuekpe and its environs have not been without some avoidable challenges and lingering environmental impacts.
Rumuekpe hosts 24-inch and 28-inch pipelines that aid the loading, gathering, and transport of oil exports to terminals in Bonny. Before the recent explosion, environmentalist with the Environmental Rights Action, Kentebe Ebiaridor said that the community was home to a variety of exotic animals but most of its animal population has waned due to oil extraction. The community has also witnessed communal strife associated with oil politics by Shell and other oil majors like Chevron and Total.
In a statement issued in Lagos on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, CAPPA described the incident as unfortunate and one that confirmed the vulnerability and exposure of the community to the consequences of extractivsm, and corporate subservience, even as it noted that it also exposed Shell’s response to disaster in communities where it operates.
CAPPA stated: “Against the clear intentions of Chapter three of the Petroleum Industry Act which frowns at any infractions in host communities, Shell has failed to protect its facilities. This chapter demands absolute protection of host communities and provides for commiserate remediation, and compensation for cases of environmental disasters, operational breaches, and mismanagement related to oil production.
“In the same vein, Section 234 of the Act posits that mining operations or related practices in the host communities must only deliver sustainable prosperity, social and economic benefits, local content development, etc, and not the massive environmental destruction, displacement, and potential social unrest as seen in Rumuekpe and elsewhere.”
According to CAPPA, blame-shifting and delayed response which Shell uses to dodge responsibility is strange to our extant laws and only reiterates the priority of the company to profit over people.
The group added: “Also condemnable are cases of inside collusion of oil workers, their local collaborators and security personnel to distort operational procedures. CAPPA’s stance has always been that oil companies including Shell act responsibly by leaving our oil in the ground considering the evident contributions of its continuous exploration to climate change and environmental degradations.
“We urge the Nigerian government to give life to the letters of the law by protecting the rights of local and indigenous landowners and to show seriousness in funding a just transition from fossil fuels that protects the rights of landowners and labour movements, and puts an end to corporate impunity, social immunity, and recklessness.
“Addressing the concerns of locals must also include conducting an independent and comprehensive environmental audit of vulnerable hotspots in the Niger Delta and prevailing on big polluters to own up, pay up and clean up for their pollution and human rights abuses.”